Stress (psychology), an unpleasant state of emotional and physiological arousal that people experience in situations that they perceive as dangerous or threatening to their well-being. The word stress means different things to different people. Some people define stress as events or situations that cause them to feel tension, pressure, or negative emotions such as anxiety and anger. Others view stress as the response to these situations. This response includes physiological changes—such as increased heart rate and muscle tension—as well as emotional and behavioral changes. However, most psychologists regard stress as a process involving a person’s interpretation and response to a threatening event.
Stress is a common experience. We may feel stress when we are very busy, have important deadlines to meet, or have too little time to finish all of our tasks. Often people experience stress because of problems at work or in social relationships, such as a poor evaluation by a supervisor or an argument with a friend. Some people may be particularly vulnerable to stress in situations involving the threat of failure or personal humiliation. Others have extreme fears of objects or things associated with physical threats—such as snakes, illness, storms, or flying in an airplane—and become stressed when they encounter or think about these perceived threats. Major life events, such as the death of a loved one, can cause severe stress.
Stress can have both positive and negative effects. Stress is a normal, adaptive reaction to threat. It signals danger and prepares us to take defensive action. Fear of things that pose realistic threats motivates us to deal with them or avoid them. Stress also motivates us to achieve and fuels creativity. Although stress may hinder performance on difficult tasks, moderate stress seems to improve motivation and performance on less complex tasks. In personal relationships, stress often leads to less cooperation and more aggression.
If not managed appropriately, stress can lead to serious problems. Exposure to chronic stress can contribute to both physical illnesses, such as heart disease, and mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders. The field of health psychology focuses in part on how stress affects bodily functioning and on how people can use stress management techniques to prevent or minimize disease.
The circumstances that cause stress are called stressors. Stressors vary in severity and duration. For example, the responsibility of caring for a sick parent may be an ongoing source of major stress, whereas getting stuck in a traffic jam may cause mild, short-term stress. Some events, such as the death of a loved one, are stressful for everyone. But in other situations, individuals may respond differently to the same event—what is a stressor for one person may not be stressful for another. For example, a student who is unprepared for a chemistry test and anticipates a bad grade may feel stress, whereas a classmate who studies in advance may feel confident of a good grade. For an event or situation to be a stressor for a particular individual, the person must appraise the situation as threatening and lack the coping resources to deal with it effectively.
Stressors can be classified into three general categories: catastrophic events, major life changes, and daily hassles. In addition, simply thinking about unpleasant past events or anticipating unpleasant future events can cause stress for many people.
A person who is stressed typically has anxious thoughts and difficulty concentrating or remembering. Stress can also change outward behaviors. Teeth clenching, hand wringing, pacing, nail biting, and heavy breathing are common signs of stress. People also feel physically different when they are stressed. Butterflies in the stomach, cold hands and feet, dry mouth, and increased heart rate are all physiological effects of stress that we associate with the emotion of anxiety.
Coping with stress means using thoughts and actions to deal with stressful situations and lower our stress levels. Many people have a characteristic way of coping with stress based on their personality. People who cope well with stress tend to believe they can personally influence what happens to them. They usually make more positive statements about themselves, resist frustration, remain optimistic, and persevere even under extremely adverse circumstances. Most importantly, they choose the appropriate strategies to cope with the stressors they confront. Conversely, people who cope poorly with stress tend to have somewhat opposite personality characteristics, such as lower self-esteem and a pessimistic outlook on life.
Psychologists distinguish two broad types of coping strategies: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. The goal of both strategies is to control one’s stress level. In problem-focused coping, people try to short-circuit negative emotions by taking some action to modify, avoid, or minimize the threatening situation. They change their behavior to deal with the stressful situation. In emotion-focused coping, people try to directly moderate or eliminate unpleasant emotions. Examples of emotion-focused coping include rethinking the situation in a positive way, relaxation, denial, and wishful thinking.
To understand these strategies, consider the example of a premed student in college who faces three difficult final examinations in a single week. She knows she must get top grades in order to have a chance at acceptance to medical school. This situation is a potential source of stress. To cope, she could organize a study group and master the course materials systematically (problem-focused coping). Or she could decide that she needs to relax and collect herself for an hour or so (emotion-focused coping) before proceeding with an action plan (problem-focused coping). She might also decide to watch television for hours on end to prevent having to think about or study for her exams (emotion-focused coping).
In general, problem-focused coping is the most effective coping strategy when people have realistic opportunities to change aspects of their situation and reduce stress. Emotion-focused coping is most useful as a short-term strategy. It can help reduce one’s arousal level before engaging in problem-solving and taking action, and it can help people deal with stressful situations in which there are few problem-focused coping options.
Support from friends, family members, and others who care for us goes a long way in helping us to get by in times of trouble. Social support systems provide us with emotional sustenance, tangible resources and aid, and information when we are in need. People with social support feel cared about and valued by others and feel a sense of belonging to a larger social network.
A large body of research has linked social support to good health and a superior ability to cope with stress. For example, one long-term study of several thousand California residents found that people with extensive social ties lived longer than those with few close social contacts. Another study found that heart-attack victims who lived alone were nearly twice as likely to have another heart attack as those who lived with someone. Even the perception of social support can help people cope with stress. Studies have found that people’s appraisal of the availability of social support is more closely related to how well they deal with stressors than the actual amount of support they receive or the size of their social network.
Research also suggests that the companionship of animals can help lower stress. For example, one study found that in times of stress, people with pet dogs made fewer visits to the doctor than those without pets.
Exercise 1.Read this information and discuss the questions below with a partner:
A recent medical survey in Britain revealed that 25% of the population saw no hope for the future and one in ten felt that life was not worth living. Many teenagers were excessively worried about their weight and general appearance. Approximately 25% claimed they suffer from anxiety over their studies.
1. Are you surprised by these statistics?
2. Are you basically happy with your life?
3. When is the happiest you have ever been?
4. What is happiness?
Exercise 2. Read through the article and answer this question - What exactly is this man's problem?
When I was married I thought I was miserable because of my wife. So, we got divorced, and then I thought things would change. But I was still depressed somehow. Friends used to invite me out, and though I had nothing else going on, I'd tell them that I was busy or that I had other plans, but I’d just stay at home and watch TV or vegetate.
So, then I blamed it on my job. I used to fantasize about just leaving the place. I started taking days off sick. My performance went downhill. But I couldn't quit. I was scared. I would wake up in the middle of the night, just lying there - thinking. Then a job opportunity came up at a different company, and for a few months I actually thought I was getting better. But then it came back- with a vengeance.
I started crying - literally crying - for no reason at all, some times in the middle of the day. I started calling myself names like 'stupid' and 'incompetent'. I shut my friends out and I became generally useless.
Sometimes I would go out to do a bit of shopping and I would see happy couples walking around - some of them with children - and then I would feel even worse. And so I thought, "That's it! I'm lonely. I need a girlfriend." And so I got on the internet to try and meet people. And I did. And for a few weeks I actually thought I was getting better. But it got worse.
I started thinking about old age and death. And pretty soon the things that used to make me happy, things like nice weather and a call from a friend, started to seem more like irritations. Life began feeling pretty pointless. I think I was on the verge of giving up on it all when I met Judy. The advice Judy gave me changed my life for the better, and probably forever. I can't believe the difference it has made.
Exercise 2.1.Read the article again and discuss these questions with a partner:
1. What seemed to be the man's problem?
2. What aspects of the man's life did this problem affect?
3. Have you or anyone you know ever felt like him?
4. Who is Judy and what do you think she said to him?
5. What advice would you have given him?
Exercise 3.Complete the sentences below with these words:
usual take under hard
low top down weather
l. Things are just getting me . . . ..
2. He's not his . . . . self at all.
3. I'm feeling a bit under the . . . ..
4. I'm feeling a bit . . . . at the moment.
5. Things are getting on . . . . of me.
6. I'm finding life . . . . at the moment.
7. I'm . . . . a lot of pressure.
8. I'm not sure I can . . . . much more.
Which sentence above is usually used to talk about physical rather than emotional or psychological health?
Do any of these sentences apply to you or anyone you know at the moment?
Exercise 4.Some mental conditions are controversial, with some experts saying the problem is all in the mind. Match the conditions with the description of each one. Are the following conditions real?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
getting angry and possibly violent because of the stress of modern driving conditions
Seasonal Affective Disorder
a sudden crisis of confidence suffered by men around the age of 45
Post-traumatic stress disorder
permanent tiredness caused by stress
persistent emotional problems after being involved in a traumatic incident
depression caused by long, dark winters
Exercise 5.Read these ten tips on how to be happy. Which do you think are genuinely helpful?
Ten proven ways to increase your happiness
Most people are unhappy because they choose to be. All they have to do is change their minds and learn some new habits and their lives will change forever. Here are ten habits of happy people. Try them and experience the results for yourself.
ü Act happy – even if you don't feel it. A smiling face will get more smiles from others.
ü Enjoy the moment. Happiness is not produced by great things happening, but by recognizing all the little positive things that happen every day.
ü Take control of your time. Happy people feel in control of their lives. Set yourself realistic goals for the day.
ü Take regular exercise. Get your body producing those depression-busting chemicals.
ü Get rest. We all need time on our own and enough sleep – make time to re-charge your batteries.
ü Sing. People who sing are happier. It's the people who have to listen to them who are unhappy. Be a singer.
ü Get a pet. Stroking a cat or patting a dog has therapeutic effects, calming anxiety.
ü Feed your soul. Studies show that actively religious people are happier. They cope better with crises and are part of a supportive, accepting community.
ü Prioritize close relationships. Spending time in open communication with loved ones stops isolation and independence.
ü Get out of town. Spend a few hours a week in the countryside. Smell the fresh air, touch the flowers and hug a tree.
Exercise 5.1. Discuss with a partner or as a class:
1. Is this serious advice or just light-hearted?
2. Do you agree that to be happy you just need to 'change your mind'?
3. Could the tips above help someone who is seriously depressed? Are any unhelpful?
4. Have you ever had to help a friend who was depressed? IX. Drug abuse problem
TEXT 1. DRUGS
When we speak about drugs, we normally mean the soft drugs marijuana and hash(ish) and hard drugs like heroin, cocaine or crack. But there are many more drags available, like opium, LSD, etc. Some are even used medically, for example morphine or barbiturates: only the continued abuse of such medical drugs is really dangerous.
Not only hard drugs but also soft drugs have harmful consequences for people's health. They are habit-forming and alter patterns of mood, thought and behavior. No matter whether the drugs are taken as a pills, smoked, snorted or injected intra venously, they will sooner or late lead to physical, psychological and mental dependence and consequently to addiction. Drugs cannot be taken in a moderate and controlled way over a long period because no drug is non-addictive. Once stronger doses of soft drugs are needed, the use of hard drugs often becomes inevitable.
There is an alarming tendency among more and more - mainly young - people to:
1) become addicted to drugs;
2) start by using hard drugs (bypassing marijuana and hash);
3) start taking drugs very early (some even at the age of 10 or 12);
4) die of a drug overdose before reaching the age of 30;
5) have easy access to drugs which are supplied in large quantities;
6) take drugs even if they live in small towns or in the country and not in big cities where this is more common;
7) mix "cocktails" to make the intoxicating or narcotic effect stronger and to intensify the euphoric feelings induced by drugs;
8) switch to cheaper but even more dangerous synthetic drugs, which are also more addictive;
9) commit drug related crimes to get money to support their habit.
Exercise 1. Discuss the following:
− Drugs addicts tend to die before reaching the age of 30. How can the society help combat drug abuse?
− What do you think of more research into the psychological and social reasons for drug abuse so that the roots of the problem can be tackled?
Exercise 2.Make a list of all the illegal drugs that you know.
ü Which of those are soft drugs and which are hard drugs?
ü Which of the drugs in your list are dangerous? How dangerous are they?
ü Do you know different names for the same drug?
Exercise 3.Do you know what the following mean?
roll a joint get high smoke dope snort cocaine
become addicted overdose come off drugs an addict
Exercise 4.Discuss the following:
ü What is the law in your country regarding drugs – both possession of drugs and drug dealing?
ü Are there any drugs in your list that you think should be made legal? Which ones and why?
Exercise 5.As you read through the article think of the answer to this question: If you were on the panel, would you have come to the same conclusion?
GRASS IS GOOD FOR YOU
A panel of doctors, economists, parents and police officers in the United States has decided that drugs should be made legal. Their conclusions took into account factors of crime, medicine and even prison space.
“We have a prison population of over l0 million in this country. Many of those are in jail for drug-related crime, such as the sale or possession of illegal substances”, said an officer of the Chicago Police Force. Because of new, tough laws, currently 3 out of 5 people in prison are there because of drug-related crimes, which means little space is left for violent criminals, the ones the public would really like to see locked away.
But there were more reasons raised for legalizing drugs. “There are cancer patients out there who are wandering around dark streets at night trying to buy marijuana for pain relief,” said one of the doctors on the panel. “They should be able to get what they need without entering the criminal underworld.”
The effectiveness of marijuana on patients going through chemotherapy has long been known by the medical profession, but political conservatives still raise opposition. One senator spoke out against the panel’s conclusions. “I can sympathize with the patients, but the fact is, marijuana is addictive and harmful and we don’t want that kind of thing in our communities,” he said.
But the panel disagreed. They argued that, although marijuana was admittedly a potentially addictive substance, research has proved that legal substances such as nicotine and alcohol are far more addictive and harmful. “Marijuana actually does some good. The same cannot be said of cigarettes and alcohol.”
On other substances, the panel agreed that drugs such as heroin and cocaine did not serve the community in the same way marijuana could, but argued that keeping those substances illegal meant money for criminals. “We don't have people shooting each other over tequila or controlling prostitutes with Marlboros,” said a teacher on the panel. “Keeping drugs illegal allows people to do illegal things.”
The panel will shortly be presenting its findings to the government.
Exercise 5.1. What were some of the reasons for legalizing drugs mentioned in the article? Tick those which were mentioned in the article:
1. Drugs can help people who are ill.
2. Drugs keep criminals in business.
3. Making drugs legal means that they can be taxed, and that means revenue for the government.
4. Drug-trafficking is not as serious as violent crime, according to many people.
5. Legalizing drugs could make the job of law enforcement officers much easier.
6. Alcohol and cigarettes are more addictive and more harmful and are already legal.
How many of those six points do you agree with?
Exercise 6.Use the following words to complete the sentences below:
illegal addictive immediate beneficial
long-term damaging legal designer
1. Cigarette smoking is more . . . . to your health than smoking marijuana or cannabis.
2. Nicotine is more . . . . than marijuana.
3. Marijuana can have very . . . . effects on cancer patients, helping them through chemotherapy.
4. The . . . . effects of smoking dope are well-known – feeling extremely carefree and related. The . . . . effects are less clear.
5. How can it be . . . . for a l6-year-old to buy and smoke cigarettes when at the same time it is . . . . for a 21-year-old to buy and smoke marijuana? It's crazy!
6. One of the biggest dangers today is the so-called . . . . drugs which young people use at discos and parties.
Exercise 7. Do you agree with the following opinions? Discuss them in small groups:
1. Getting high on a joint is less dangerous than getting drunk.
2. People who smoke dope change their personality over time. They become irresponsible, unreliable and ruin their lives.
3. The drug laws in our country are already too relaxed. They should be far stricter. Fine people for a first offence and then send them to prison if they re-offend. It's the only way.
4. Experimenting with drugs is OK. You just need to know when to stop.
5. Soft drugs lead to hard drugs. Just don't even think of starting!
6. More people die from alcohol-related problems or accidents than drug related problems. Statistically, drugs are safer than alcohol.
7. All recreational drugs should be made legal for adults. That would immediately stop related crime.
8. Some countries in the Far East have the right idea – execute all drug dealers. That would soon stop the drugs trade.
Exercise 8. Discuss the following:
ü Have you ever tried drugs? Do you know anyone who has? Which ones?
ü Do you know where to get drugs in your town?
ü What problems have you seen in your community caused by drugs?
ü What would be the effect of legalizing drugs? Take two minutes to think of three implications. Then tell your group what you have thought of.